Current Conditions - Eastern Sierra area

sources of info - entirely my work - snitched from various sources and personal observation - ie. Inyo Co. Sheriff road conditions, Inyo NF, Sequoia NF, Mammoth Times, Lone Pine Chamber, Sierra Wave, etc. etc.

it is YOUR responsibility to check on road conditions if something on this list looks suspects - I don’t update it every day- this is a moving target!!

Rockfall, thunderstorms, melting snow, etc. cause changes…. this is the best I have as of the dates below…. jwest0554@gmail.com

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updated 1/26/18

Winter weather is the norm now!

 

120. 108, 4 passes  closed for the winter

but “winter” has been kind of dry, so far

 

And not even that all cold… although Mammoth and June are able to make snow….   But if you’re looking for winter mountaineering – ice climbing is good, XC skiing not so much, snow level about 9000 ft.
Whitney Portal Store is CLOSED. Water off. With each system we will have wind before and after so wet, cold and high wind major factor .   Or – hot, as in 70 in the Owens Valley

Because there haven’t been many wet storms – so far- conditions haven’t changed much….

 

Flowers – we didn’t get ANY fall rains, no December soaking….. not looking good for annuals.  The bushes always bloom, usually April-May, but carpets of desert annuals just ain’t gonna happen this spring…

 

Kern Plateau roads, open, but SNOW and ice, as in black ice,  coming to higher elevations off and on.

open - Blackrock Road to the trailhead for Golden Trout Wilderness trails,  Troy and Fish Creek campgrounds, OHV trails  all OK- but - it’s freezing every night now!!   SNOW on Bald Mountain and Sherman Pass – ICE, AND BLACK ICE AT NIGHT!!   It’s cold up there – go prepared!!  Don’t get caught by a storm!!  There are no tow trucks in any of the mountains!  AAA will just laugh.  Use your head – carry chains, food, blankets

Blackrock Station is CLOSED till May 20.

Kennedy Meadows area is open for business on weekends. General Store and Grumpy's open weekends, residents and visitors welcome!! Store hours roughly weekends, 11-4.    Check Grumpy’s for hours, but food available on weekends usually.

Kennedy Meadows Campground is open, but there are no OHV trails from there. Good hiking. PCT Hikers welcome.  The Kern River IS running.

Be sure you have a campfire permit for a fire or your stove and lantern - and a Wilderness Permit if you’re hiking into the Golden Trout Wilderness - Casa Vieja, Jordan HS, etc.

Campgrounds - “improved = toilets, fees, tables, water in season” Troy Meadows, Fish Creek, Kennedy Meadows.

Primitive= no toilets, no fees;  Fish Creek overflow, Beach Meadow, Osa Meadow, Paloma Meadow, Monache Meadow, Powell Meadow, Granite Knob Meadow, Blackrock trailhead.   (Troy overflow not open)

Roads: - paved roads all open until closed by snow.  There IS snow now above 8000 ft.  Not plowed.  DON’T GO THERE WITHOUT PROPER GEAR = CHAINS, WARM CLOTHING!!

dirt roads – open, ice in shade

CLOSED FOR WINTER; Monache Meadow is truly a JEEP road - ie. clearance, 4x4. You’ll need it! It is not currently suitable for Subaru’s, for example. Real Jeep types!! The Kern River Crossing is deep, soft, flowing fast, and not for the timid. Washouts on a lot of the roads in the Monache area. Roads to Bonita and Beach Meadows in good shape shape.

Fishing season closed Nov 15.

Snow happens now with each passing storm!  Stream crossings down to “normal”. Now it’s snowing with storms above 8000 ft. again.  The high passes STILL have snow from last winter. 

Sherman Pass is 90 miles from Ridgecrest no matter which way you go down the hill - and it’s the same elevation drop whether you go to Kernville or Ridgecrest - so it’s a GREAT loop!!  But NOT now…

 

Whitney, Horseshoe Meadows, Onion Valley areas

https://www.fs.usda.gov/recmain/inyo/recreation

Inyo site has some great trail maps/guides on this website.  Check them out!!

All trails were open but fresh snow happens now regularly.  Avalanche danger

Campgrounds mostly closed – just a few lower elevation ones open, no water, no fees.

Need Wilderness permits all year for overnight hikes or skies out of Horseshoe or Onion Valley and Whitney.  Road may not be open to the trailhead due to snow – they’re not plowed.  Snowmobiles allowed on paved roads in some places, X-C skiing spectacular!!!!  Go anywhere – no restrictions.

Horseshoe road is closed, gates locked at the bottom.  Onion Valley and Whitney Portal still open until snow gets serious. Watch for ICE.   When they put up the “road closed” signs, believe them – and you’ll get a ticket if you sneak around….

 

Bishop Creek Area, Rock Creek, McGee Creek

ALL campgrounds being closed - !!  See https://www.fs.usda.gov/recmain/inyo/recreation

All paved roads were open but it snowed down to 7500 ft, so now these won’t’ work. .  North Lake road, Mosquito Flat CLOSED to vehicles, but you can ski up there.  Hwy 168 closed at Aspendell.

Lakes freezing again, and still last year’s snow patches on north-facing slopes and passes.

Mammoth Lakes Basin

https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/inyo/recreation/?cid=stelprdb5403315

Campgrounds all closed as of Nov. 1  Bike (now a ski) trail good to Horseshoe Lake.  Horseshoe is FULL of water for first time in years!!!  Trails- open, best on skies or snowshoes.    Fresh snow from Twin Lakes up.  The top has 6 +ft!!

Lakes Basin Rd, Old Mammoth Road to Lakes CLOSED – but groomed for X/C skiing!  Go for it!

Mammoth Mine area closed due to arsenic issues

Mammoth Mountain Ski Area in full swing now.  Just need $$$.

**Reds Meadow Road CLOSED, everything down there closed. 

Wilderness Permits required for ALL overnight travel, even in winter (especially in winter).

Mono Lake – road to South Tufa open, trails open. $3 entrance fee.  Guided Ranger walks Sat, Sun 1 p.m.

 

Tioga Road- closed for the Winter – and Sonora Pass too

https://www.fs.usda.gov/detailfull/inyo/recreation/?cid=stelprdb5403325&width=full

Hwy 120 and 108 closed for the winter.  Open to XC ski, snowmobiles outside the park.

   Facilities and campgrounds closed

Tioga road closed at the bottom on the east side, at Crane Flat on the west side.  Saddleback Lake road closed. 

Bodie road open when not snow-covered, but the park is open – you can snowmobile or ski into there.  Rangers live there all year!

As of right now, the June Lake Loop is open! 

Lundy Canyon Rd open to the store.

Best to call the park.  Their web pages not updated at all for this wild winter!!

 

Saddlebag Lake   Fishing possible.  Saddlebag Lake Resort

It is with a heavy heart that we say - we will not be opening the General Store and Cafe at Saddlebag Lake this year.  There is too much snow damage and we are working to see how quickly we can repair the damage.  Until further notice, the Water Taxi and Boat Rentals will not be operating as well.  We are sorry for not being able to take care of our friends and SBL family this season!  We will keep you updated. Keep us in your thoughts and prayers.  

Saddlebag Lake Resort is still looking for the right people, family, or organization to purchase this great business.  If you are interested in more information about this great opportunity.

 Saddlebag campground is closed,
catch a brookie, brown, rainbow, and golden - maybe even all in same day!

Tioga Pass Resort - CLOSED - severe snow damage to the main building and some of the cabins.  Will require $$ and major work.  No pie  L

 

Public Transportation in and around Yosemite NP

See http://yarts.com/routes-schedules/   Closed down

Within Yosemite National Park - FREE shuttles

2 major loops around the Valley still running, 7:30 - 10 pm  Year round

 

Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest

https://www.fs.usda.gov/detailfull/inyo/recreation/?cid=stelprdb5403323&width=full

Road open to the Schulman Grove until closed by snow. Visitor Center closed **watch the sky - if clouds with gray bottoms, do NOT go hiking and do NOT go up to the Patriarch Grove.  This is prime territory for hail storms and lightning!!  This seems to be a particularly wet/monsoon summer!  Watch for snow as storms pass.

Grandview Campground open, no water.  Good place to start X/C skiing.  Road not plowed – watch the sky, get out if it’s going to snow!!

 

Death Valley National Park

***LOWER WILDROSE OPEN!!!!   Finally!  Access to Telescope Pk trail.  Some snow on Telescope at the top,

Death Valley is HOT IN THE SUMMER, real hot, but it’s also COLD IN THE WINTER!!  Yup, freezing sometimes on the valley bottom – can snow on Townes Pass!!  Pay attention, and bring warm clothes. The sun goes behind Telescope Peak by 4 p.m. and cold air sinks.  Cold in the mornings too!!

http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/vef/rec/index.php?loc=DV


Death Valley Road Conditions

Road Updates

Big Pine/Death Valley Road is OPEN
Devil's Golf Course Road is OPEN. 

ROAD ADVISORIES:
Mesquite Campground: CLOSED

PAVED ROADS:
CA-190: Open
Badwater Road: Open
Emigrant/Wildrose: Open
Scotty's Castle Road/North Highway: open to Ubehebe
Scotty's Castle Road: Closed to the Castle (Bonnie Claire) and  to NV-95

UNPAVED ROADS:
Big Pine/Death Valley road: OPEN
West Side Road: open
Harry Wade Road: OPEN, 4X4 REQUIRED - DEEP SAND!  NO RV’s!

Titus Canyon Road: OPEN

Mustard Canyon, Salt creek Rd. OPEN

Salt Creek Road open, but Pupfish won’t be down there until late Feb – early April. 

Updated road conditions can be found on our website: 
https://www.nps.gov/deva/planyourvisit/conditions.htm

Be careful when in the backcountry in this cold! You will be alone - plan on it.

***Really watch the sky!  Remember that water runs downhill - so if it’s raining uphill from YOU - watch out - water will soon be there!!!!!   Snow happens, sometimes down to 5000 ft!!

 10/8/17  updated 12/7 and 1/24

Report on Death Valley in general

 MAJOR construction going on at The Oasis at Death Valley- both the Ranch (The Ranch at Death Valley) and the Inn (The Inn at Death Valley). The Inn usually opens Oct. 15, but looks like they’re not booking rooms till February!! Construction equipment in the parking lot and everywhere else.  They plan to make some little cabins on the tennis courts and west of the pool - but right now they’re not anywhere done yet… The Inn Dining room says they’re still open as usual, which means Sunday Brunch as usual but probably not till February.  Word is that they’ve revamped all the rooms - which needed it - HVAC, etc.  Golf course is not impacted and is open, as is the 19th hole.

No rooms available till at least February.  $399-449 depending on location _ tax and resort fees, not including meals. 

 There is a fence up across the entire front of the Ranch.  Entrance from dirt road leading to Golf Course, Date Grove.  They’re redoing the entire entrance area - store, Corkscrew Café, bar, Wrangler - all will be different. Now dining is in a small building in the middle of the date grove; see the web page for menu.  Rooms $179 to 330 + tax and resort fees (but ask about the cabins). Several discounts.  The cabin area, pool, golf course, 19th hole all open and not affected by construction - only eating is, and the General Store, now at the 19th hole.  Gonna be a while before the central courtyard area opens -

 Xanterra also runs a small RV park just south of the Gas Station.  Fiddler’s CG - $18/night, gives access to the Ranch pool and grounds.  Next to golf course.  No tables or grills, no pull-through, kinda “open”, as in no assigned spaces like the other RV parks. 

 See http://www.oasisatdeathvalley.com/renovation/  for what they promise will be updated info.  Nice artist’s drawings of the new patios at both places. 

And http://www.oasisatdeathvalley.com/renovation/food-service-and-menus/    for the Ranch - looks like they have temporary dining in the Date Grove.   No hamburgers…but the 19th hole does. 

http://www.oasisatdeathvalley.com/dining/

 Campgrounds – mostly open!  Furnace Creek open and requires reservations, Stovepipe open.  Sunset and Texas Springs open   Mesquite CG is still closed due to flooded issues with roads, et al.  No ETA on that one.  Emigrant open, Wildrose open. Panamint Springs open.  RV sites at FC and Stovepipe open - call the motels.

 Wildrose-Emigrant  Road is open, BUT - not repaired beyond making it mostly 2 lane.  The unpaved spots are still unpaved.  The potholes are still there, especially near Wildrose Station area, both above and below. The springs are still across the road, with deep holes.  They’ll be making ice at night now.  Near the Panamint Daisy area the road is one-lane with rough 2nd lane.  Fortunately there’s still not much traffic on the road.  DO NOT DO THIS ROAD AT NIGHT!!  Your headlights won’t catch the potholes and rough spots and ice.

 Emigrant Rest Stop – open.  The Ranger Station across the street has a display now about the Station and Stan Jones, who wrote “Ghost Riders in the Sky” while sitting on that porch during a storm. 

 Other than all this - the Valley is BEAUTIFUL now!  Light is perfect, temps OK but COLD at night.  Not crowded until President’s weekend but maybe not so bad because the Inn won’t be open.   

SPECIAL HIKES -  SCOTTY’S CASTLE FLOOD RECOVERY TOURS

The Death Valley Natural History Association and the National Park Service are pleased to offer walking tours of the Scotty's Castle grounds. On October 18, 2015, over a three-hour period, 3 inches of rain fell on the Scotty’s Castle area, causing a massive flash flood that dramatically changed the landscape. The road and utilities were destroyed, some buildings damaged, and access to this historic area was closed. 

This season's walking tours are scheduled for Saturdays: 9:30 am & 1:00 pm, December 2, 2017  to April 14, 2018. Tickets are $25 per person, + ticketing fee.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

PALEO HIKING TOURS

DVNHA’s Death Valley Institute is also hosting two additional Death Valley Paleontology Weekends: January and Feb 17, but you must enter the lottery for this date!  You can enter the lottery by:

Calling 760-786-3280 and leaving a message. Messages should include your phone number, email address, and number of people in the group (up to 4 people).

Tickets are $75 per person, + ticketing fee.

 This is a unique opportunity since hikes to these locations are led by guide only. Due to the sensitive nature of the locations, access is only permitted a few times a year and to very small groups. The hikes are expert led by paleontologist Torrey Nyborg, Ph.D. from Loma Linda University.

Scotty’s Castle Report

 10.8.17            Report on Scotty’s Castle Rehab, et al

 The flood was Oct. 18, 2015.  October - !!!!  multiple articles - Google “Scotty’s Castle Closed”

Guesses at the time said it’d be open by 2020.  - Here’s why-

 It rained only 2.5” at the castle in a short period of time, but upstream more like 4-5” in an hour.  Grapevine Canyon is narrow.  All that water came rushing down @ 3500 cfs through the Castle grounds and down past Mesquite campground and into the valley.  Campers were moved to Ubehebe Crater parking lot just in time.  Trash bins and picnic tables rolled by on 20 ft. waves.

 The roads to and from the Castle had just been repaired in the spring of 2015, new fence posts, etc.  New water system above the castle, new phone lines, etc.  All ripped out!! Oops….

 Sooooo - the clean-up began.  The NPS has a $10 million “emergency fund” and all of it went to DVNP - paid for emergency utilities (see below), grading one lane of road from Grapevine out to NV 95, and most importantly, having over 200 personnel from other Parks and lots of fire fighters come with shovels and wheelbarrows to dig out the buildings - all that work was done by hand!!  Then started plans for how to rehab.  The “Castle”, (DV Ranch,) was not impacted by the flood, but all the other buildings and the pool were.  And the utilities everywhere were gone.

 Without any HVAC or humidity control to anything, all historic artifacts needed to be immediately moved somewhere - turns out to a climate-controlled warehouse in LA!! 

 Southern Cal Edison came in and replaced the poles and lines where they used to be (in the wash- no thoughts of undergrounding) BUT - when they got to the distribution box - it was full of rocks and mud.  Then when electricians looked at all the buildings - the wiring is 100 years old and obviously not up to code.  Laws require that everything be brought up to code. 

 A temporary water line was run from the spring in the canyon down to the grounds and hooked into the system.  Leaks popped up everywhere!!  100 yr old clay pipes were in very nasty soil full of  boron, alkali salts, etc. and of course were crumbling.  Gotta replace ALL the water lines.

 The HVAC system never did work well.  Gotta replace all the duct work and the units.

 Drywall all got wet - gotta pull all that and start over - after wiring and pipes get fixed.

 The Welty Organ and player piano were deemed to difficult to move - so they have put a climate controlled “box” around both and hooked that to power.  (The Pelton Wheels still work, but the pipes don't).

 Roads - the Fed. Highway budget will fix both the 3 miles up from Grapevine and 8 miles from the Castle out to NV 95 - BUT - that’s government funding and s..l..o..w - plans needed to be drawn to try to get most of the road out of the wash.  Now looks like repairs will happen 2018-2019.  It’s not a simple project. 

 Sooo - best estimates now are to open in 2020…. 

The Amargosa Opera House in Death Valley Junction

  Marta died Jan. 20, 2017, but Hilda Vazquez has been carrying on and does performances every Friday and Saturday night at 7 p.m.   Hilda has studied Marta’s performances – dances and pantomimes and it’s well worth attending in this very famous place.  It’s 30 minutes from Furnace Creek east to DV Junction, where trains from Rhyolite and Ludlow met the mining trains from the Lila C talc mines. 
            tickets $20 at the Hotel front desk.   In addition, there are some special activities – 50th Anniversary of Marta’s first performance at the Opera House – Feb. 9-10, and March 4, NanUke and the Apologies group will perform.

            What is an Opera House doing in the middle of nowhere??  It started out as the Pacific Coast Borax Co. “town”, because of the train junction and nearby mines – 23 room hotel, dining, etc.  The Recreation Hall was used as a community center.   Then it sat and sat… then Marta came along (a classical ballerina from New York) in 1967 and decided that the meeting hall could become a theater and she could finally have a stage to dance, so she did.  She painted an audience on the walls, and kept painting and painting – her works of art are just amazing! Come early to admire them – the detail. 

            There is a Hotel – Marta painted each room differently.  Nothing fancy, but an interesting night in the quiet desert.  Rooms go for $80-90 and usually sell out on weekends.  https://resnexus.com/resnexus/reservations/lodging/640111AA-10FE-43F7-8E2A-DE41C187B6B3

            Food – there is a Café at the corner – check to see if it’s open. Usually Fri, Sat, Sun, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. 
https://www.facebook.com/amargosacafe/    call – 760-852-4432   Sometimes they do dinner too.
Amargosa Hotel – 760 852-4441  Address HR-C 608, Death Valley Junction, CA 92328

Otherwise there is a restaurant and rooms at the Longstreet Inn and Casino, 7 miles north on Hwy 127/373NV, or in Death Valley, of course. 
The Longstreet has 60 rooms and an RV park, grass and ponds, pool, and a Casino and restaurant.  Nice place to stay only 35 min. from Death Valley, much cheaper than staying IN DV!!  http://www.longstreetcasino.com       
Rooms $80-100, RV hookups $25.  Even a petting zoo with friendly burros. 
4400 Nevada 373 (right at Stateline, Amargosa Valley, NV 89049.  775-372-1777

            Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge and Devil’s Hole

Also in the middle of Nowhere – and well worth visiting when you’re at Death Valley – just east of the Park in the middle of the Amargosa Valley is this oasis of warm pools and pupfish at Ash Meadows.  It’s been here a long time, but now has a new lovely Visitor Center, and walkways to several of the deep blue pools scattered around.  All roads are dirt, but graded, and if not muddy, in fine shape.  Easy to explore from the Longstreet Inn and Casino – see above.

https://www.fws.gov/refuge/ash_meadows/  entrance from Hwy 373 just north of the Longstreet (Jack Longstreet lived here for many years), or from the south from Hwy 190 from Pahrump.  Best place to see Pupfish!! And birds. 

Trails, John Muir Trail and Pacific Crest Trail, passes, etc.

Also a moving target… check with Lone Pine Visitor Center for Whitney area, Bishop/Inyo Natl Forest office and Inyo NF website for Bishop area, Mammoth Ranger Station, Mono Lake Visitor Center - both MLC and USFS offices for conditions.  They change daily!!  Now all covered with a lot of snow, and high winds make deep drifts.  It’s WINTER.

Trails are NOT closed - BUT - there’s still a lot of old snow above 8.000 on north-facing slopes and passes, and rivers are still high.  Avalanches happen !! All high passes have snow on north sides, though south-facing sides have patches of suncups Ice axe, crampons, and skills to use them a must still, and now there’s fresh snow all over the high country!!

Trails above June Lake Power Plant - ie to Gem Lake, Agnew Lake, etc. are OPEN but ICY!!

Amazing website, but not updated for 2017.  Lots of cool history, tips, etc.

            https://tahoetowhitney.com/Resupply/Tuolumne%20Meadows/Tuolumne_Meadows_Backpacker_Resupply.html

USE COMMON SENSE.  If it looks dangerous, it IS.  There’s no shame in turning back and going to a safer place, or just going out and coming back later.  The mountains will be waiting for you, maybe with not so much water and snow - though they sure needed it!! 

From Yosemite NP Web page -

On July 1, 2017 about an hour before sunset, a wilderness law enforcement ranger on a routine backcountry patrol encountered three separate parties, seven hikers total, all completely lost while facing darkness. They were in the Sunrise Pass area south of Tioga Road, Tuolumne Meadows general area.

Although the Tioga Road opened just two days before, many high country trails remain snow covered, including trail signs. All three parties discovered how challenging route finding is on snow buried trails and lost their way going to Clouds Rest and back; this trail is misperceived as an easier route and some of the hikers had done this trail before. While lost, one party found another trail which they could not identify and it did not lead to where they needed to go which only worsened their situation.

Through route finding efforts and cross-country travel, the ranger successfully lead the hikers to their destination arriving at 11:00 p.m. By this time, one hiker was suffering from altitude sickness and another was asthmatic. None of the hikers were enjoying their experience.

Although the cross-country travel occurred after darkness, only two of the hikers had headlamps and the ranger had to loan out his spares.

It was fortuitous that a ranger in a vast backcountry happened across three lost parties. He was not looking for anyone specifically nor were there any reports of missing hikers as cell service is unusual in this area. Otherwise, searches would not have started at least until the following day and this would have required numerous resources, at least one miserable night outside, and an outcome that could not be guaranteed.

Lessons Learned:

Traveling over snow covered trails requires route finding skills. This includes carrying a detailed topographical map, compass (GPS optional), and, of course, mastery of these items.

Always, and we cannot stress this enough, have the ability to retreat or return to where you have come from by the same route. This requires you to remain aware of what’s behind you while hiking to your destination.

Hike prepared with the 10 essentials. Few hikers intend to hike in the darkness but a headlamp, preferably two, and spare batteries, can be a game changer.

Hikers sometimes place rock cairns for their own reference. These are not official Park Service markers and they may or may not be accurate. Bottom line, follow someone else’s markers at your own risk.

When in doubt, hike on well-defined trails until the high-country trails are snow free.

Please help circulate the word to anyone who is thinking of hiking in the Tioga and Tuolumne areas.

 

Jeep stuff around Panamint Valley

Most jeep roads open;  Chicken bridge has been replaced but BLM still working on Chicken corner.  Snow above 8000 ft.  Mengle Pass a rocky mess, as usual. Ask at Panamint Springs.

 

  It’s WINTER, and going to get worse in the high country!!  No more shorts and running shoes - snow levels during storms come down to 5-6000 ft.  Freezes every night above 5000 ft.